Eye on the News

Stefan Kanfer
Judge Goldstone Recants
But the damage is done.
4 April 2011

Perhaps the most naive statement of the young century was expressed in Judge Richard Goldstone’s recent mea culpa, printed in the Washington Post. The South African jurist headed a commission to investigate human rights violations during the Gaza war of 2008–09. The 2010 Goldstone Report, as it came to be known, accused Israel of crimes against civilians. “If I had known then what I know now,” the judge allows, “the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.”

How different? Well, for one thing it might have told the truth. Neither Israel nor Hamas cooperated with Goldstone’s investigators, but Israel conducted its own probe, while Hamas was only interested in manipulating the judge and the international press—which constituted the jury. They were only too happy to oblige. (UN INQUIRY SEES GAZA WAR CRIMES; ISRAEL CHASTISED, the New York Times; ISRAEL COMMITTED WAR CRIMES IN GAZA: UN PROBE CHIEF, Agence France-Presse; UN SAYS ISRAEL SHOULD FACE WAR-CRIMES TRIAL OVER GAZA, the Independent, London.) Hamas officials, beside themselves with delight, repeatedly chortled that Goldstone was Jewish; ergo, how could he be biased against the Jewish state?

In fact he could be and was. In his revisionist editorial, the judge writes, it now “goes without saying that crimes allegedly committed by Hamas were intentional, that its rockets were purposefully and indiscriminately aimed at civilian targets.” Israel, on the other hand, presented clear evidence that “civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy.” Goldstone regrets “that our fact-finding mission did not have such evidence explaining the circumstances in which we said that civilians in Gaza were targeted, because it probably would have influenced our findings about intentionality and war crimes.”

Probably? But the judge isn’t finished. “Some have suggested,” he concludes— leaving readers to ponder the identity of that “some” (Likud members? Tea Partiers? Fox News pundits?)—“that it was absurd to expect Hamas . . . to investigate what we said were serious war crimes. It was my hope, even if unrealistic, that Hamas would do so, especially if Israel conducted its own investigations. . . . Sadly that has not been the case. Hundreds more rockets and mortar rounds have been directed at civilian targets in southern Israel.”

And just what did Goldstone expect, given the history of Hamas, a political organization sworn to destroy the state of Israel? The judge’s coup de grace on the report that bears his name is the following: “The United Nations Human Rights Council should condemn these heinous acts in the strongest terms.” Fat chance. As Goldstone well knows, that council’s current membership includes such major human rights exemplars as China, Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. The South African’s about-face is welcome, but far too little and much too late. The best contribution he could make for world peace is to find his leper’s bell and wear it next time he issues a statement about geopolitics, war, or anything else that might affect the lives of other innocents.

Stefan Kanfer, a contributing editor of City Journal and a former editor of Time, is the author, most recently, of Tough Without a Gun, a new biography of Humphrey Bogart.

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